Brumbies on top and Cheetahs into top six
April 15, 2013
Friday, April 12
The Brumbies were too good for the disappointing Highlanders (video available only in Australia)%]
Stalwart flanker George Smith led the Brumbies to a decisive 30-19 win against the Highlanders after his backs launched a relentless aerial assault against their winless Super Rugby foes in Dunedin.
Smith's highlights included forcing a turnover that led to an early penalty goal and scoring a try off the back of a disintegrated rolling maul in the 31st minute.
The Brumbies continued their trend of blitzing sides early, opening the scoring in the third minute when winger Henry Speight brushed off his opposite Hosea Gear, stepped inside fullback Ben Smith and then carried Ma'a Nonu over the line.
The Brumbies immediately lost returned outside centre Andrew Smith to injury, but they were never threatened by their hosts after four successive matches against highly physical South African opponents.
Saturday, April 13
The Reds impressed with a powerful performance (video available only in Australia)%]
Queensland Reds produced a stunning defensive display to overpower the Chiefs in Hamilton, with Quade Cooper providing an attacking spark to suggest he remains the Wallabies' No.1 fly-half despite his omission from the coming logistics camp in Sydney.
Wallabies half-back Will Genia pulled the strings brilliantly behind a dominant Reds pack, with Cooper also influential in providing a telling response to Australia coach Robbie Deans. Waikato-born Cooper kicked for territory cleverly, scored 16 points and deceived his opponents, most notably when he stepped inside Chiefs counterpart Aaron Cruden to score the Reds' third try early in the second half.
"He's been improving week to week," Reds captain James Horwill said of Cooper, "and Willy and him have got a really good combination together. They direct us round the park really well. It was a big effort by both of them, and the boys up front also did a pretty good job to lay the platform for us."
The Chiefs created, arguably, the greater opportunities in the first half only to be let down by poor handling against resolute defence within the opposition 22. The Chiefs' midfield pairing of Bundee Aki and Richard Kahui produced a strong performance, but the hosts were unable to break down a resilient Reds outfit who are starting to kick into gear.
The Blues combined rapier attack with brutal defence (video available only in Australia)%]
The Blues produced a stunning performance to complete a double against the Hurricanes, outclassing the visitors in all facets of the game at Eden Park. The Hurricanes arrived in Auckland on the back of a four-match winning streak but they were no match for the Blues, who had previously defeated their rivals in Wellington in round two.
Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, James Parsons and Tom McCartney had the 23,387 Eden Park crowd in raptures with tries either side of half-time, while the visitors, starved of possession and field position, mustered only a dropped goal and a penalty to Tusi Pisi and Beauden Barrett respectively. With the win, the Blues climbed into second in the New Zealand conference on 27 points, two points behind the Chiefs.
The Southern Kings fought back to beat the Rebels (video available only in Australia)%]
Southern Kings made history in Melbourne, claiming their first Super Rugby win outside South Africa after Demetri Catrakilis capped a wonderful fightback with a drop goal in time added on.
Melbourne Rebels seemed set to claim their first win against South African oppositions when they led 27-20 with less than five minutes remaining, but the Kings, who defeated Western Force in recording their only previous win, levelled through a converted try, scored by flanker Wimpie van der Walt just a minute after the Rebels had lost flanker Jordy Reid to a yellow card, then Catrakilis stepped up to nail the hosts after Jason Woodward had kicked the ensuing kick-off into touch.
Kings captain Andries Strauss hailed the "strength and character" of his team in fighting back, saying "we knew if we got our hands on the ball we could score some points", but Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham and coach Damien Hill were nonplussed by the home side's inability to close out the win.
Crusaders' errors and gutsy defence see Western Force prevail in Perth (video available only in Australia)%]
The Force endured a sustained period of intense pressure from the New Zealand side late in the game, but the hosts showed great resilience to keep their line intact and secure their second victory over the men from Christchurch - and to secure their first win at nib Stadium this season.
The Crusaders came into the contest searching for a fourth win in five games but they failed to match the physicality of the Force in the loose, where Richard Brown caught the eye with a typical all-action performance. Michael Foley's men were disciplined and aggressive in defence, a vast improvement on the side that shipped four tries against Melbourne Rebels in round eight, while their attack was revitalised with Norton-Knight providing an assured presence on his starting debut at fly-half. Alfie Mafi, meanwhile, continued his stellar season with another lively performance, and Hayward supplied the pinpoint accuracy from the kicking tee that has been lacking all too often this season.
The Stormers won a tight derby in Cape Town (video available only in Australia)%]
A Juan de Jongh try made the difference as the Stormers defeated the Sharks 22-15 in a forward-dominated Super 15 clash of South African sides.
Springboks centre de Jongh crossed the line on 35 minutes at Newlands to help the home team build a 16-6 half-time lead they successfully defended under intense second-half pressure.
The Sharks' only consolation was a stoppage-time penalty goal from fly-half Patrick Lambie that secured a losing bonus point in a return fixture after the Durban team won 12-6 at home in March.
The Stormers had the better of the scrum battle, taking several tightheads, were superior in the loose exchanges, and also stole several line-outs for a third win in seven outings this season.
Bulls fans had cause to celebrate (video available only in Australia)%]
The Bulls celebrated their 75th birthday in fitting fashion with a hard-fought 26-20 win over fellow South Africans the Cheetahs in a full-blooded Super 15 clash on Saturday.
The match before a 35,000 Loftus Versfeld crowd took a decisive turn early in the second half when the Bulls scored 10 points in four minutes to turn a 9-6 half-time deficit into a seven-point lead.
A gallant Cheetahs' side came within two points just seven minutes from time when impressive prop Trevor Nyakane crashed over for a try, but the Bulls responded by scoring one of their own.
Replacement forward Callie Visagie got the touch down after a number of forward surges and fly-half Morne Steyn converted to finish with a 16-point tally.
But the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein deserved something from an absorbing South African derby and they got a losing bonus point after the hooter sounded when substitute fly-half Francois Brummer kicked a penalty.
Bye: New South Wales Waratahs
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